The Lukewarm Church

TEASER #1
“I once saw a mega-church billboard sign, and then I heard the pastor speak about it as well. They had this sign up ,,, they were going to do a sermon that said, “This Sunday’s Sermon  Topic: WHY HOWARD STERN IS BETTER OFF THAN YOU ARE”.

And they were basically saying, “Yes, Howard Stern is better off than you…” in the sense that he’s REALLY COLD and no where near where we wanted him to be in his relationship with God, but he’s better off than all you all LUKEWARM Christians; because that’s how they were interpreting the passage, “I wish you were either HOT or COLD but instead you’re LUKEWARM”.

But that doesn’t make any sense does it? .. why would God communicate that? That’s not what He’s communicating at all.

TEASER 2
“I can’t tell you how many churches close their doors in America with MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to their name. This one church gave away $3 MILLION DOLLARS when they finally closed.  I thought, “I’m glad someone else got the money, but I can’t even understand that mindset”.  I mean if we were down to 50 people and we had been declining in attendance and we were thinking we were going to have to close the doors in one-year and we had $3 million dollars… I’d be saying, “Let’s hire 5 pastors and let’s send a mailing to the community every week for the last year… let’s go out with a BANG… right?  What are you holding on to you money for… let’s give it a shot… let’s try to reach our community.

TEASER #3
“We should be so involved in transforming this community that if we STOPPED doing that ministry and we left, the mayor should have to call an immediate meeting and say, “HOLY COW… WE’RE IN TROUBLE… KIRKMONT’S LEAVING BEAVERCREEK” !!!

– – – – – –

Pastor Dan Borgelt
Kirkmont Presbyterian Church
Beavercreek, Ohio 45434
http://www.kirkmont.com/

Sermon AUDIO (listen as you read TRANSCRIPTION below)

Pastor Dan:
“Let me ask you, how many of you have ever had the unpleasant experience of going to take a drink of something, and you accidentally got a swig of something that you weren’t expecting?  That is just a horrifying experience isn’t it?  It sort of shocks your body a little bit.

I remember one time we were out to eat with some folks and we had had Caleb, our oldest child… and I’m not sure how old he was but old enough to have his own drink at the restaurant… we were at McAlister’s Restaurant and we were out with another couple, and we were at that phase where ya know you’re still being polite around the other couple… you’re just getting to know each other, just getting comfortable with each other.

And we’d had our meal, and so the drinks had been sitting out there for maybe an hour or so, and we’d just been talking and stuff and I was probably on my second or third soda and I went to take a drink of my “pop” and I took a drink and it was my son’s lukewarm milk (LAUGHTER).

Now for some of you all, you prefer milk over soda… but I DESPISE MILK.  I spent hours as a child sitting around the dinner table refusing to drink milk and so this first gulp of milk went down into my stomach and it was all I could do just to hold it back down there. And I still had milk in my mouth… and I didn’t know what to DO with the milk that was still in my mouth and my mind said, “Look, you’re in a public restaurant, you’ve got company here, you’ve gotta swallow that milk”… and my body was like “DON’T YOU DARE” (Laughter)… you will pay for this.

And so I just, as discretely as I could, grabbed my soda and just (sound of milk leaving mouth) poured it back into the cup… it was awful (Laughter), then I set the milky Pepsi off to the side.

– – – – – – –

Man… in our passage this morning, God says a really unique and interesting thing; He says to a church, to one of the early churches that got started, He says “I am about to spew you out of my mouth”… I am about to spew you out of my mouth… now that doesn’t sound like a very encouraging message for us together this morning, but it gets more positive near the end.

So He starts with this expression, “I’m about to spew you out of my mouth”… in other words, to God, this Early Church tasted more like lukewarm milk than it did good refreshing soda (light laughter)… and so I want to ask you this morning, HOW DO YOU THINK THAT GOD FEELS ABOUT KIRKMONT? .. our church here.  Do we taste to God more like Soda, or Milk?

– – – – – – –

I want to invite you to our passage… it’s found in the Book of Revelation… now that gets all kinds of flags thrown up and people get excited, and some people start dreading it, because there’s people who want the pastor… I mean there are people out there who are obsessed with Revelation, like my late grandmother whose license plate said, “RAPTURE” (laughter)… and they just think the pastor should preach through the Book of Revelation and when it’s done, just start over from the beginning of Revelation and do it again… and there are other people who loathe it.

We are not beginning a new sermon series on the Book of Revelation; we just finished a series… this is just a filler onetime sermon before we launch the next series.  The Book of Revelation, chapter 3; I think there’s some really relevant stuff for us a Church and as individuals in this passage together this morning… STARTING in verse 14.

So… if you’re new to the Bible, it’s the very last Book of the Bible, we’d love to have you open one up and turn there with us; if not it will be on the screen; Revelation, chapter 3 starting in verse 14.

Here… we’re going to give you a little bit of an outline, give you an idea of where we’re going; and the first thing we’re going to do i look at the Church’s PROBLEM that they encounter… verses 14-16, verses 17 and 18 we’re going to look at the CAUSE of the problem of this Early Church; and then finally, verse 19-22 the SOLUTION to the problem.

PROBLEM – vv 14-16
CAUSE – vv 17-18
SOLUTION – vv 19-22

  1. FIRST, THE PROBLEM – vv 14-16

“Alright, let’s get back to verse 14 here and this passage says, this,

To the angel of the church in Laodicea write 

So this is an early Church in the city of Laodicea.. and if you’ve got one of those Red Letter Bibles, this is JESUS SPEAKING.. this stuff is in RED:

These are the words of the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation.  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other!  So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. 

The-Lukewarm-Church

Now this is a passage that is often misunderstood, misinterpreted, misapplied to people, and the reason is we have this expression of HOT and COLD and LUKEWARM that’s being used in the Bible, and we’ve taken those concepts of temperature and we’ve applied them to different areas of life in totally different ways.

So for example, when we think of like an athlete, especially like a basketball player; if someone makes a whole bunch of shots in a row you might say, “Oh that person’s really HOT”… right? … and now if the miss a bunch of shots then you might say, “That person’s really (pause) COLD”.. OK, alright.. a couple of you know what I’m talking about… alright.

Or maybe you guys will catch onto this a little bit better… back in our High School days we saw an extremely attractive male or female and say, “Oh that person was really… (pausing for audience participation) HOT” .. OK.. Wayne was right there with me (LOUD LAUGHTER)… that’s right, that’s right… you get the idea, we USE it in other ways besides TEMPERATURE all the time.

The problem is, that’s not how they talked some 2000 years ago… they weren’t like, “Oh, that person’s really ‘hot’ or that athletes really ‘on-fire’… I mean, that didn’t make any sense, it’s not how they talked.

So when we misapply these terms, we totally come up with the wrong understanding of the passage. So, for example, what it SOUNDS LIKE then… that Jesus is saying is He would rather people in the Church be HOT… like on-fire for their relationship with God; or COLD meaning really BAD at their relationship with God… He would rather one of those two things instead of them being LUKEWARM…  doesn’t that just sound a little odd?

I mean is “lukewarm” our goal? … no, but isn’t lukewarm being better than being COLD? … if you think of it that way. But that’s the way we come across… that’s the interpretation we get if we think of things like that. In fact, many churches, and pastors including myself at times in the past… that’s exactly how we taught the passage.

I once saw a mega-church billboard sign, and then I heard the pastor speak about it as well. They had this sign up ,,, they were going to do a sermon that said, “This Sunday’s Sermon  Topic: WHY HOWARD STERN IS BETTER OFF THAN YOU ARE”. Some of you may not know the name Howard Stern, but Howard Stern is sort of a grotesque radio personality who used to have a show but now is exclusively on Satellite Radio, and he’s got R-rated stuff on there.

And they were basically saying, “Yes, Howard Stern is better off than you…” in the sense that he’s REALLY COLD and no where near where we wanted him to be in his relationship with God, but he’s better off than all you all LUKEWARM Christians; because that’s how they were interpreting the passage, “I wish you were either HOT or COLD but instead you’re LUKEWARM”.

But that doesn’t make any sense does it? .. it shouldn’t make any sense to you.. why would God communicate that?

That’s not what He’s communicating at all. In fact when I was in college I accidentally interpreted it that way and taught a group of teenagers that way. Anyone else ever led a Bible Study, preached a sermon, taught a Sunday School class only to find out you mishandled the passage later?  … a few sympathetic people… OK.  It’s a horrifying feeling.

So anyways, unlocking the meaning of the passage requires us to dig into the context of the passage a little bit. It’s a great example of how people today, especially recently are just manipulating Scripture for all their different purposes and causes and why we need to get serious about understanding what the passage actually says.

Laodicea, as we’ll talk about in a minute, was an extremely wealthy area, an extremely wealthy church. For all practical purposes they were completely independent, EXCEPT in the area of their water supply. Laodicea had MONEY and were independent except for the area of their water supply.

They had this elaborate aqueduct system where they were bringing water into their city from 20-30 miles away. And some of the nearby churches or cities benefitted from natural HOT SPRINGS, so they would have access to hot water for medicinal purposes or for bathing purposes. Other nearby cities would’ve had access to COOL, REFRESHING mountain water and it had its purpose for drinking and various things.

But Laodiceia had to bring all of their water in from 20-30 miles away through this system, and by the time it got to them it was LUKEWARM… and not only was it lukewarm, but it picked up such a mineral deposit in the process that it made many people actually vomit and get sick.

And so what God is saying, He’s using a common concept that these people would’ve known about and said, “Just how you feel about the water… that’s how I feel about you”.

Now it makes sense because He’s saying, “I WISH YOU WERE EITHER COLD OR HOT” meaning I wish you were USEFUL–either one of those, either COLD water or HOT water would be useful, but this LUKEWARM stuff is how I feel about you.  He’s saying, “not only are you USELESS to me as a church, but I feel like I am ready to spew you out of the mouth”.  And He probably feels like he’s ready to spew them out because they ARE useless.

The early church in Laodicea had become useless to God and for His purposes… AND THAT’S SO SAD and so TRAGIC when you think about it because The Church is supposed to be the very opposite of useless.  The Church is supposed to be doing some amazing things in the Name of God.

Friends, WE are considered to be THE BRIDE OF CHRIST… we are called to go into a community and completely transform it… EMPOWERED by God to change lives and transform communities; to care for ORPHANS and WIDOWS… to end the POVERTY, to end HUNGER, to end HOMELESSNESS… that, you name it, we’re supposed to take all the SOCIAL INJUSTICES of our community and turn them upside down and make them right.

And while we’re doing that we are supposed to ACCOMPANY that with the most beautiful news that the world around us has ever heard, and that is JESUS CHRIST HAS DIED ON A CROSS FOR THEIR SINS… they can have NEW LIFE in Him, that there’s GRACE and MERCY found in the Name of Jesus… that all of their guilt and all of their burdens can be free in the name of Jesus Christ and they can have ETERNAL LIFE.

THAT’S where the Church is supposed to be; that’s what we’re supposed to be doing in_our_communities; and it’s so sad and tragic when you hear about the early church, here they were, they had become completely USELESS to God.

OK… that was the PROBLEM – vv 14-16, now

#2 THE CAUSE – vv 17-18
Now how does a church become so useless when they’re supposed to be doing something so beautiful? The Scripture goes on to tell us what the SPECIFICS OF THE PROBLEM were in verses 17-18.

“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’ But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked. The next verse sounds like it’s the solution, but it’s just more details of the problem… “I counsel you to buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

So what was the downfall of this church? The Scripture says, that they use the expression, “I am rich, I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing”.  So they had become rich and wealthy, and not only had they become rich and wealthy, but their attitude was such that they have ACQUIRED IT THEMSELVES… that’s a dangerous place to be.

And then, because the only thing that they LOVED and CHERISHED and DESIRED in this world could be bought with money… and they had a lot of it… they didn’t need anything.  And so, God calls them out on it; this is their problem: they have this concept of “I’m rich, I’ve acquired wealth, I do not need a thing”.

Now friends, listen, the Church being in a good financial situation could be an incredible blessing, couldn’t it. But it also has the potential to be an incredible curse as well.  You can start to see why many people when they read through all the churches that are addressed here early in Revelation… they think Laodicea speaks to the Church in America more than any of the others.

Money could be an incredible blessing, but it also could be an incredible curse… I mean there are many churches that hold onto their Savings Accounts like IDOLS.   I remember one church, I had a friend who went to this church, they showed up and were a young couple with a couple of kids and the church didn’t have any other young couples with kids and there wasn’t a ministry FOR children.

And our friends volunteered.. they went to them early in the year and said, “We will run Vacation Bible School for you; we will offer Vacation Bible School for the people here in this church, AND for the people in the community, if you will help support it and fund it… it’s going to cost money… $1500 or whatever VBS costs”.

And the church Session said, “No, no, no, no… we don’t want to spend $1500 on VBS that’s too much, that’s too much”.  We found out later they have $100,000 sitting in their Savings Account. And meanwhile this church is dwindling down in attendance, less and less kids… and $1500 is too much to spend. They don’t want to SPEND DOWN their savings, they’d rather keep on the path that they are going.

I can’t tell you how many churches close their doors in America with MILLIONS OF DOLLARS to their name. This one church gave away $3 MILLION DOLLARS when they finally closed.  I thought, “I’m glad someone else got the money, but I can’t even understand that mindset”.  I mean if we were down to 50 people and we had been declining in attendance and we were thinking we were going to have to close the doors in one-year and we had $3 million dollars… I’d be saying, “Let’s hire 5 pastors and let’s send a mailing to the community every week for the last year… let’s go out with a BANG… right?  What are you holding on to you money for… let’s give it a shot… let’s try to reach our community.

But there are some churches that are so… they feel so tied to the security of having that money, that they just hold on to it. The truth of the matter is the Church is called to be an organization that is constantly stepping out on FAITH.

At my last church I was starting to feel like our decisions with regards to MINISTRY and FINANCES were getting way too conservative for a healthy church. So, I brought a devotion to the Session and it was the story some of you may know where the Apostle Peter, Jesus’ friend is out on a boat, storms out there, Jesus walks out on the water to him and Peter takes the “step of faith” and steps out of the boat and walks on water as well.

(pause)

I’m trying to find something… I’m going to tell you this part; I have it in my notes but I didn’t have the courage to tell the first service (laughter)… it’s a little teenage humory… is that OK? (yes response)… alright now you really want to hear it; it’s a little teenage humor, it involves the name peter in the male anatomy.

But anyways… OK, alright, there I am, I’m telling this story.. God was like moving in me and I was really excited, what I meant to say is, “Session, when is our next Peter walking on water moment going to be?”  Instead what I said was, “Session, when our next Peter out of the water moment going to be?” (laughter).. and the whole place just cracked up… it just ruins the whole devotional… and now you know why I didn’t tell it at the first service (more laughter).

Anyway… so, I think a church should always be in one of those moments… WE SHOULD ALWAYS BE DOING SOMETHING… we should always be doing something that forces us to rely upon the power and the character of God the Almighty, the Creator of the Heaven and the Earth.

In a healthy church you should be able to ask anyone who goes to that church, “What’s happening in your congregation?” And everybody would just immediately say the same thing… “Here’s how we’re relying upon God here”… right?

And the Church in Laodicea had become rich; acquired wealth, they did not need a thing, they were complacent, they were content in a BAD WAY.

And this passage is there for us, for the Church in America, for any other church to remind us not to take that same pattern; to not allow the blessings that God has given us to make us comfortable to hold on to the idols and those blessings and to continue to step out in faith and to rely upon God.

– – – – – – – –

Last year I went to, and I went to it again this year and will continue to go to this conference; it’s called The Exponential Conference; it’s for pastors, it’s a church-planting conference. And I go to that conference because Church planters get what we’re talking about here more than anyone else.

Church planting, if you don’t know, it the culture of starting new churches… from scratch, starting a new church. And church planters get this, because they have no budget to hide behind; they have no savings that they can hide behind; they have no building thats paid off that they can just sort of hide in and be comfortable; they IMMEDIATELY show up to a location and they have to do the work that God has called the church to do… that God has called us to do even though we have more money in a paid-for building.

They have_to do those things because there’s a great urgency, because they don’t have anything else to hide behind. I LOVE THE CHURCH PLANTING CULTURE in that sense and I think there’s a lot that we can learn from it… to sort of self-impose that mindset, to say, “We’re going to function as a church, like a church plant with the same heart for the mission of our community, with the same unwillingness to rely upon the securities of the things that we could be hiding behind.

One of the ways for us to do that by the way might be to actually plant a church. For God to call Kirkmont, to call someone to start a congregation down the road somewhere and to give that church some of our money and even maybe some of our people, and allow God to be God… to be SO GENEROUS to the Kingdom of God that we are reliant upon the Kingdom of God to support us and sustain us.  THAT’S what a healthy church does and what God is calling us to do…

NOT LAODICEA… NOT Laodicea… there are so many churches that have wonderful financial situations and beautiful buildings but they have NO IDEA that GOD when He takes them wants to SPEW THEM OUT OF HIS MOUTH because they are not being THE CHURCH, the Bride of Christ transforming the community around them.

– – – – – – – – –

The SOLUTION then given to us finally, in 19 through 22

Remember..
The PROBLEM – vv 14-16
The CAUSE – vv 17-18, and now
The SOLUTION now in vv 19-22 says this,

“Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline. So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.  We’ll stop there.

[00:20:52] – TRANSCRIBERS NOTE:  The audio change in Pastor Dan’s voice at this point is powerful. Above his tone was loving but FIRM… from this point on it’s still LOVING, but SOFT; this is an amazing oratory gift, to be able to experientially FEEL what he’s saying. The following audio starts at [00:20:52]

(continuing)
“When I began this Service today telling you a passage from the Psalm that reminds us of the Character of God’s Love. Don’t be mistaken by the idea that God want’s to spew them out of His mouth with what He says here.. He finishes his time with them by saying, “Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline”.

And He tells them the SOLUTION is to REPENT.

Ya know, it’s the beautiful character of God that He never ever offers indictment without offering the opportunity for repentance.  And He’s inviting them to come back to Him.

There are so many churches out there that are leading the way in front of Christ… sure they want Christ to follow them because they want to be a Christian church, but they want Christ to follow them at their pace and their direction… whatever it is that they’re doing.

– – – – – – – –

Ya know, I mean… I was thinking of sometimes what I’ll do is I invite people to go to a movie with me… and I might get on my phone and I might TEXT ten different people and say “Hey, do you want to go to a movie?”.. or whatever. Now, because I’m inviting so many people it would be sort of chaos if I said, “What movie would you like to go to?… and When would you like to go?” … I simply say, “Hey, I just wanna let you know, I’m going to be at the movie at this time, going to this movie, at this place… if you can join me, great.”

And that makes sense for something like that. But when a church does that to Jesus… “I just wanna let you know Jesus, this is where we’re going to be… this is what we’re doing… and we’d LOVE to have you come along”… right?

They’ve TOTALLY misunderstood the concept of The Church… Laodicea is so rich and wealthy and independent, they had no need for Jesus to LEAD them, to SUSTAIN them, to GUIDE them… instead what Jesus says to them is, “I don’t care how wealthy you are… how abundantly you’ve been blessed, TURN BACK TO ME, allow ME to lead you, WALK towards ME… and that doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be walking AT ME… walk towards me and I will lead, in turn and you follow where I take you as a Church”.

Jesus is saying the SOLUTION for Kirkmont is to have an intimate and close relationship with Our Lord and Savior, and to have a Session here at the church that insists that we follow Jesus wherever He takes us into this community.

I want to let you know that I am encouraged… because when I look at our Session Meetings, it’s a group of people here who make most of the decisions for the church. At “Session Meetings” we start our time together in a devotional. Then someone prays, after that; and then before EACH of the ten elders give their report, THEY PRAY; and then we close our time in prayer. And so we’re praying… someone do the math… we’re praying 12 times… right?  I mean we are saturating our decision-making in SEEKING God. And I pray that we continue to do that and it leads to FAITHFUL decisions.

And some of you maybe aren’t even thinking about the church.. you’re thinking about your LIFE and God is convicting you and saying, “Are you a mini-individual Laodicea? …  and you need to be called back into a deep, intimate relationship with Jesus.

A Church should be able to answer the question: WHY ARE WE HERE IN BEAVERCREEK?  God by His mercy and grace has SUSTAINED us in this community for DECADES and we should be able to answer the question, “Why are we here?”  Why does God want us here? … What has He called us to DO in this community?  And not only that, we should be so involved in the ministry here in this community that if we left.. IT WOULD CRUMBLE.

We should be so involved in transforming this community that if we STOPPED doing that ministry and we left, the mayor should have to call an immediate meeting and say, “HOLY COW… WE’RE IN TROUBLE… KIRKMONT’S LEAVING BEAVERCREEK” !!!

[TRANSCRIBER’S NOTE: I just heard the above for the first time transcribing this… and it was the first time I remember both LAUGHING so loud and CRYING so much at_the_same_time !!!.

And right now, one might argue that we could walk out of the doors here and never come back, and the city might not even miss us.. and that’s sad [whispering]… and that’s tragic… because God is calling us to do a wonderful thing in His Name.

I just want to invite you to join me in praying and asking God to show us if there is any Laodicea in our individual hearts, and in our lives as a congregation… and if so, to SHOW us how to REPENT, show us how to turn back to Him.

Let’s pray together,

Heavenly Father we thank you for Your Word as always… we thank you for the truth of it; it reminds us that you have given us guidance and direction; we can learn both by positive and negative example of these early churches that are written about; and today we learn about one that went astray… and many of their foundational circumstances are similar to churches here in America. We’ve got an abundance of money, we have a lot reasons why we could just become content and comfortable; and we pray against that Laodicean spirit… and if there is that at all.. and I’m not saying there is… but if there is, we INVITE YOU HONESTLY TO SHOW US WHERE and to give us the humbleness to repent and to totally rely upon You.

And I pray that Your Spirit would move in this Church and UNIFY US… we can’t do everything in this community, but I pray that You would SHOW us how this church could NOT be useless and how it could be used INCREDIBLY for the Kingdom of God.  

GIVE US A VISION… show us the greatest need in this community that you would have the people here at Kirkmont rally together and meet… that you might be pleased with our presence here both NOW and for the years to come.

And we ask these things in JESUS’ NAME. Amen”.

 – – – – – – – – –

Direct Link to all Pastor Dan Kirkmont Sermons:
http://www.kirkmont.org/listen-to-sermons/http://www.kirkmont.com/sermons.htm

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